By Steve Flowers
It has been speculated for several years that Alabama could lose a congressional seat after the 2020 Census. It was thought to be a foregone conclusion. However, in recent days, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates indicate that we might dodge that bullet. They say we are on the cusp and if we have had a good count, we could keep our current seven seats in congress.
This will be extremely beneficial for Alabama if this miracle occurs. We have a very Republican-heavy congressional delegation. We have six Republicans and one lone Democrat. We have two freshmen Republican congressmen, Jerry Carl in the 1st District and Barry Moore in the 2nd District. Both of these men will be reliably Republican votes.
Congressman Robert Aderholt is our most powerful and senior member of congress. He is entering his 25th year in the House of Representatives and is the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.
Congressman Mike Rogers is beginning his 17th year in the House and has just become the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee. If the Republicans win the majority in the House in the 2022 elections, then Aderholt and Rogers will become the chairmen of these two prestigious and important committees.
Our lone Democrat Terri Sewell could be our most important member as we enter 2021. She is in the House leadership and is widely admired and respected within the Democratic caucus. The Democrats hold the majority in congress as well as the White House, which puts her in the catbird seat.
If we do lose a seat, it will be a difficult task to reshape the state’s districts. If that occurs, this is how I see it shaking out.
Let us begin with our Democratic district held by Congresswoman Sewell. Our state population is over 30% African American. Therefore, the U.S. Justice Department will not allow you to terminate our dedicated Democratic African American district. In fact, they would like to see two, but it cannot be accomplished.
Sewell’s 7th District will become the 6th District and will encompass a large portion of the state. It will begin with Birmingham and get the metro African American areas of Jefferson, Tuscaloosa and Montgomery and will also have to pick up the rural counties north of Mobile, which have traditionally been in the 1st District. She will represent the entire Black Belt and will pick up the counties of Clarke, Washington, Wilcox, Monroe, Escambia and Butler.
The Black Belt is losing population. The population of the State of Alabama is moving northward toward Huntsville. The current 6th District, held by Republican Gary Palmer, will become the new 5th District. It will basically remain unaltered, as the strongholds of Jefferson and Shelby Counties have kept pace with the national population growth.
The Huntsville 5th District of Republican Mo Brooks is where the growth is in the state. It will shrink geographically to essentially be a Huntsville/Madison County, Limestone County, Morgan County and GOP district.
Our Senior Congressman Robert Aderholt will retain his northwest and north central Alabama core constituency, including Walker, Cullman, Marshall Counties and all the Sand Mountain area. He may go into Huntsville. He may also like to retain his 4th District number.
Mike Rogers’ 3rd District will become the new 2nd District. It will keep his home area of Anniston and Calhoun County, as well as the growth areas of Auburn, Opelika and Lee County.
This is where you start dissecting the current 2nd District. The populous counties of Elmore and Autauga, along with the suburbs of East Montgomery/Pike Road, must go northward to Mike Rogers’ new 2nd District. The 1st District of Mobile and Baldwin remain the 1st District. Baldwin has grown extensively, and these two counties make up a congressional district. Therefore, new Congressman Jerry Carl will be safe.
I guess you folks in the Wiregrass, and especially Barry Moore, are wondering where you go. The counties of Houston, Dale, Coffee and Covington either go into the new 2nd District by drawing an arrow through Henry, Barbour, Macon, and Russell and making a super east Alabama district; or, depending on the census count, you draw an arrow through Escambia and pull Dothan and the Wiregrass into the Mobile/Baldwin 1st District.
Wherever the Wiregrass goes, it will make that district even more super Republican. It is the most conservative Republican area of the state. It will be interesting to see. This, of course, is just my prognostication. The state legislature will draw the lines next year after all the census figures are counted and revealed.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years on the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.